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When I saw that the theme for week 10 was “Looking Up” I knew right away that I was going to shoot something astronomical, you see Astronomy is my “other hobby” (I really know how to pick the cheap ones don’t I? I wonder what will be next, cars, planes? Someone stop me please!) The possible shots I envisioned were a wide angle long exposure of the night sky capturing the Milky Way as it sets in the west after sunset, or a shot of the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that is so prominent this month also in the west right after sunset, or an image of the Sun shot through a telescope.

I ended up getting two out of the three, but I couldn’t get away from the city for a good long exposure Milky Way shot so I decided to concentrate on some backyard astronomy instead and used this assignment as a jumping off point to test out the D7000 in astrophotography.

This shot is more technical than creative, really how creative can you get shooting a giant ball of gas? (insert your own joke here) Instead I’m trying to get the technique down as there will be a transit of Venus in June, 2012, and I want to be ready.

The Sun taken on March 18, 2012 with a D7000 attached to a Meade ETX-90EC with a Thousand Oaks Solar Filter

So this is a visible light image, the orange tint is a result of the filter I placed over the front lens of the telescope that cuts out enough light to make it safe for visible and photographic observing (this is dangerous stuff so if you attempt it please make sure you know what you are doing first and take all necessary precautions-you only have one set of eyes!)

I attached the D7000 to the prime focus of the ETX-90 with a T-Ring attached to a  T-adapter which screws onto the rear of the ETX-90EC telescope.

Due to the weight of the DSLR I have to add a counter weight to the front of the telescope, my counter weight setup used to be just right to counter the OM-1 SLR  I used to use but the D7000 is much heavier so I added a 2.5lb weight, but it was a little too heavy so I’ll have to find a lighter counter weight.

Here is a closer view showing the T-Ring (attached to the lens mount of the camera) which screws onto the T-adapter (the black tube) which connects the camera to the telescope. The long silver cable is my flex focusing cable for the telescope.

The whole set up. The ETX is a nice telescope in that by simply flipping an internal mirror you can switch between the eyepiece on top or straight through to the camera out the back which makes it easy to get pictures and also to observe visually.

I can’t wait for the transit in June! I actually have a 10″ LX-50 SCT telescope that I also have a solar filter for so I’ll be practicing with that one as well to determine which will be better.

My other image is of the Conjunction (Close pairing) of Venus and Jupiter that is easily visible right after sunset in the west.

Jupiter and Venus(brightest) viewed from my backyard. I used my headlamp to "paint" some light onto the pine tree during the 20 second exposure. (notice the plane trail at mid tree level)

Not my best shot by any means, it’s hard to make these types of shots when you’re limited to your backyard and you’re fighting a ton of light pollution. Luckily Venus and Jupiter are so bright that they can be seen from anywhere.

They’ve shifted position now and Jupiter is lower than Venus but they are still easily visible from any place, city, suburb, or even better the dark boonies  (yeah how often do you get to read that word?) so get outside at sunset and see a piece of this beautiful universe!

Coming up soon a review of a prize I won, and a St. Patrick’s Day Parade Photowalk sponsored by Nikon (free gear rental!)

Happy Shooting!